Green university set to rise from desert sands
Barclay Crawford in Abu Dhabi
The world's first university specialising in green energy is to be built in the desert sands of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.
Funded by the almost limitless reserve of petroleum dollars, the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology will be the first stage of the 'carbon neutral' city designed by architects Foster and Partners, which hopes to attract 40,000 residents.
Masdar City will be car-free, instead offering light rail and magnetic, driverless taxis. All power will be generated from renewable energy.
At the World Future Energy Summit this week, the rulers of the emirate announced an initial US$15 billion investment in renewable energy as part of an ambitious plan to develop the best technology and become the world's leading producer.
Some of this funding will flow into the university, which is being run in conjunction with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Some other institutions have thrown their experience and standing behind the project, including Imperial College London and RWTH Aachen University in Germany.
Classes are due to begin for 200 students in September next year, initially in a two-year Master of Science programme. That will rise to 800 by 2015, around the time the 700-hectare city is expected to be finished. The first 12 research projects are expected to have a strong focus on solar power.
Despite summer temperatures that soar to 50 degrees, the university will have minimal air conditioning, instead using an ancient Arabic city design mixed with the latest heat minimisation strategies to keep students and staff cool.
Designers of the city hope the university will drive its push to become the 'Silicon Valley of the Gulf' but with a focus on renewable energy.